THE Namibian police’s version of what transpired at Oshakati when a police officer and several striking Shoprite workers and AR activists were injured Friday evening is the diametrical opposite of what is alleged by the striking workers and other bystanders.
In a media statement, the police said the violent incident was caused by an “improcedural demonstration conducted illegally” at the Yetu Complex.
According to the police, it all started at around 13:00 when the striking workers, NAFAU officials and AR activists marched towards Shoprite vowing to close down the business.
A police contingent deployed at the site managed to block them and in the process, AR activist Leonard Indongo was arrested.
This allegedly promoted the demonstrators to flock to the police station to demand his immediate release.
After failing to secure Indongo’s immediate release, the strikers returned to the Yetu Complex and their numbers swelled as more people were allegedly transported from Ondangwa and Ongwediva to join the crowd.
It is alleged that at around 17:00 the chanting strikers moved beyond the police’s control line, causing the police to request reinforcements to be able to disperse “the unruly and uncooperative crowd” led by AR’s Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and Paulus Kathanga.
The police further alleges that stones were thrown at the law enforcement agents, who reacted by using “non lethal equipment”.
In the process, a police officer and striking workers were injured.
The striking workers and their AR sympathisers, however, have a different story to tell.
According to them, the violence started with the police without any provocation.
“For reasons known only to them, the police was utterly unhappy with the presence of the AR activists among the striking workers. They kept demanding documentary proof that we had the right to be there. But when Dimbulukeni Nauyoma arrived with the document they were demanding, and we marched towards them to hand the letter to them, they suddenly lost interest. They no longer wanted to see the document. They now wanted us to stop chanting and disperse,” said Paulus Kathanga, who is better known as Pau Pau.
According to him, they were still arguing with the police officers in the complex’s parking area, when suddenly, close to 30 members of the Special Reserve Force emerged from behind the complex, stormed the parking area and started beating up people, including passers by.
Rubber bullets were fired and more than 20 people had to receive medical treatment, either because they were severely beaten or were struck by rubber bullets.
This version was confirmed by at least three non striking Shoprite workers who were knocking off when the incident happened.
“What happened appeared to be a premeditated police attack on the striking workers,” said a female Shoprite employee who did not join the strike.